The problem is deep rooted and must be addressed seriously
India and Pakistan have fought four full scale wars from 1990s and Pakistan has aroused more vengefulness and violence in Kashmir.
The hollowness of the Pakistani support for Kashmir manifested itself in another war in 1999. More than a generation was lost in death and disappearances and there is no Kashmiri family that is not affected directly or indirectly.
Kashmir’s economy and progress halted and culture was defaced. The role of Pakistan is not viewed as a pleasing triumph by majority among Kashmiris. When we look back we feel that those who participated in the struggle have virtually contributed towards the destruction. Neither Kashmiris achieved freedom nor has their attitude towards Indian State changed for better which is very clear from the alignments that are in air for the government formation that is delayed already.
For giving a peaceful Kashmir to our present and future generations the politicians have a role to play with much more seriousness than they have displayed in the past. Be they politicians or others who claim to be the forerunners, history will never excuse them for playing with public sentiments by using sectarian or communal ideas and institutions. The difference of opinion among political parties in the State is life blood for any meaningful step forward in running better the affairs of the State. But the public opinion in Kashmir regarding the regions relationship with the rest of India remains as arduous, divided and complex as it was in 1947. This fact can’t be ignored.
We Kashmiris may have varied objectives and aspirations in mind. Let these be situated in the light of viability of our Kashmir’s geo-physical character, the establishment of rule of law, the growth of democratic norms and institutions and the role that the demon of global capitalism and the character that the free market economy is going to assume in future in this region.
The contemporary polity in a civilized society of Kashmir demands that we need to reconstruct public opinion, strengthen it. We must offer effective solutions and remove the confusion in peoples’ mind once for all. Be they Abdullahs, Muftis or Geelanis, Kashmir politics should not be totally at odds with what is practicable. All the three have a set of men in their leadership, full of zeal and determination, but they need to feel for sufferings of common people. India has struggled for several years now with challenges from its Kashmir region. Right from the time when India became free from the colonial rule most of the challenges are simply and largely attributed to the settlement of political future of this region, as a result the basic problems of people get overshadowed which raises lots of questions. How serious India has been to the people’s problems in Kashmir?
What has India done in this least equipped region to help Kashmiris cope up with the situation arising out of depletion of natural resources, illiteracy, geophysical handicaps, restricted mobility and lack infrastructure? What is the nature of transition to modernity in Kashmir? Have Kashmiris been sufficiently engaged in building their own institutions without suspicion and coercion in the larger rubric of Indian ethos which upholds the multiculturalism as bed rock of India’s civilizational trait? What is the nature of correspondence between people’s perception and popular practice about the political future of the region and why are these perceptions and practices in such a constant flux? How long are the protests in Kashmir going to sustain in subdued manner or otherwise? Is the persistence of such a perpetual turmoil in Kashmir a historical inevitability for all times to come ?
One paramount concern that emerges from these questions very clearly is that the Indian State, irrespective of changing political ideologies of the ruling class at Delhi, has either been driven by its intentional hegemonic tendency to achieve a greater degree of coherence of secular image by incorporating Kashmir or its response to Kashmir has been determined by the nature of challenges posed to her at international political platform by Pakistan, occasionally in connivance with USA. Historically the regional political entities have always expressed varying degrees of ambivalence both towards integration and discord. The Indian state saw itself as the champion of nationalism in Kashmir and refused to view the other problems of region as an impediment to the resolution of political problem from the very inception of Nehruvian era. Unfortunately today the zone of overlap in Kashmir’s problems and policy prescriptions is significantly larger than it was in the past. As a result there is increasing frequency in mounting the protest but people are tired of that as well. It is unprecedented for Indian state and its agencies let alone for its army to align its operational activities behind a unifying substantive framework that could be applicable to Kashmir.
After having brought the three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh into its fold, Indian state should have coordinated the regions’ problem through constant consultations with the grassroots agencies that would have maximized integration and minimized politicization of the problems. They have not been able to bridge the gap which they should have done to create an unshakable regional bond.
(Professor Rattan Lal Hangloo is Vice-Chancellor Kalyani University West Bengal)